Tonight, or rather, this entire Sunday was the strangest day of the week. I came home near 6am the night/morning before, fell asleep exhausted and didn’t wake up till 3pm Sunday afternoon…at least I got 9 hours of sleep – more than any other night this week I woke up, mildly guilty because I had let the whole day go to waste. So I decided to organize my life by eating better! I went to Whole Foods to buy eggs and hummus, walked back to the apartment to drop it off, took a super brief (5 minute!) nap, when Shann walked in the door, having just returned from her weekend in Boston.
The two of us walked to Chinatown together and then parted ways – Shann to pick up dinner for herself, while I did some grocery shopping for the week. I never have a plan or list of what I need to buy when I go grocery shopping, because I never know what I want till I see all the options. This doesn’t exactly result in the most time efficient shopping, but it’s surely a million times more enjoyable as I wander the streets exploring everything I can and imagining what I could whip up out of this and that. I eventually walked back home with eggplant, bok choy, blocks of fried tofu, and humongo jar of nuoc nam, fresh tofu fa, and grass jelly. Success? I think so!
It was only 5:30 by the time I got back to the apartment, but already the sky was soooo dark. It’s somewhat both depressing and nice at the same time. I unpacked my purchase and sat on my rocking chair like an old lady, contemplating what I should and/or needed to do before starting off the new work week tomorrow. I scanned my mental agenda and stopped at “Buy that book from Strand.” So off I went again, down six flights of stairs and off to Strand in hopes my finding this book I’ve been wanting to read for awhile.
Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter. I scored it for half off the retail price, which came out to $13. Most of the times I prefer borrowing books from the library, but when it comes to food related book, I’d rather have my own copy. For keeps. So I can read it over and over again, scribble, make notes, make it my own, it’s a wonderful feeling.
While I was at Strand, I spent quite a large chunk of time flipping through Dolce Italiano by Gina DePlama of Babbo. From the little I’ve seen so far, it appears to be an amazing book. I wanted to buy it so badly, but after all the money I’ve spent this weekend, I’ll probably wait a week before getting it…cause, like, you know, it’s all about smoothing expenses. Erm. Accounting term. Back to the cookbook. All the recipes left me salivating in the bookstore and my tummy started growling not out of hunger, but lust for her pastries. I stopped at a page where Gina attests to the fact that ‘gelato is a state of mind’. She described her experience with gelato in such great detail that the only thing stopping me from running off to Italy in that instant was my credit card limit. And the fact that I’m expected at work tomorrow morning. So I did the next best thing. I paid for my copy of Service Included and dashed off in the chilly evening to my favourite gelato spot in the city: L’Arte Del Gelato.
I’ve come to this West Village gem six or so times in the past month. Prices start at $4.28 for a small cup, which is not exactly a bargain (wonton mein at Bo Ky is only $3.50), but I come back so frequently because the gelato is nothing but awesome. I haven’t been lucky enough to visit to Italy and experience the real thing, but of the gelato I’ve had in the past, L’Arte Del Gelato reigns supreme. The shop was doing decent business on this Sunday evening. I sat at the high table near the register, my cup of pumpkin and mascarpone in hand. The pale pink dabble at the top is a sample of their cinnamon gelato. Oh yes, that’s another plus for this place – they always throw in a little extra ‘taste’ of a different flavour with each cup. Now isn’t that thoughtful?! The cinnamon turned out to be my favourite flavour of the three, richly spiced and simply screaming of pure unadulterated cinnamon flavour, I could have easily gone through a pint of this! However, pumpkin was also quite fantastic, a smooth and decadently creamy creation evoking all that I love of fall flavours.
This gelato shop is operated by a wonderful and incredibly sweet man, Sal, who’ve I seen working at the register every single time I’ve visited. When the flow of customers slowed down, he took at seat at one of the high stools next to me and we got to talking about food, and gelato and hot chocolate. It was so interesting to learn about his experience and history with gelato, how he creates his flavours, and most of all, his passion for his job. I’m always fascinated and inspired when I meet people who are not simply good at what they do, but love, love, love their job. I mean, you spend so much time at work, I suppose it only makes sense to do what you love. But then again, such things are easier said than done, and most people seem to be just merely content with their jobs and nothing more. Beh. I’ll have to make sure that doesn’t happen to me. I stayed at the shop for a bit more, just because our conversation was so enjoyable…and well, it seems to help that all humans are happier when surrounded by gelato!
Leaving the shop with knitted mittens on my hands and a smile on my face I walked to the West 4th station to catch the subway back home. The F trains runs once every million years on Sunday nights, so I leaned against one of those green columns in the station, whipped out my new book and started to read. And I read and read and read. And was so engrossed that I didn’t even notice when the train arrived and LEFT! I was standing RIGHT THERE and I didn’t even know! It wasn’t until I realized that the station was oddly silent that I turned up and realized that I was the ONLY SOUL LEFT STANDING. I don’t think people get any dumber than that, haha! How I managed to miss the train when I was standing right in front of it is beyond me…but somehow, I managed to do it.
So I made sure to be alert for the next train, which arrived half an hour later. And then I did something really dumb again. I took out the book. I looked up at the B’way-Lafayette stop, and then at the 2nd Ave stop…but then the book got too good…and I MISSED MY STOP!!! Oh man. I was so angry with myself! I suppose this is a testament to how engrossing the novel is! (I’m far from done, but am enjoying it very much so far :). Well I was mad, but at the same time thought it was quite funny. I don’t know, I was really out of it today. I didn’t want to wait for another train so got off at the East B’way stop and decide to walk home. I was sooo lost. This particular stop gets off near Manhattan’s other Chinatown. This Chinatown I know very well by day, when the sky is bright and all the vendors are out. But at night it seemed rather sinister, especially with this creepy guy following me around for a few blocks.
Luckily I spotted the green sandwich guy underneath the Manhattan Bridge! I had no idea he stayed open this late! (It was past 9pm). Thank god for him, cause once I spotted him, I got a better orientation of where I was and which direction I should be walking to get back home quickest.
But of course I didn’t pass without treating myself to one of his ‘sandwiches’. I was debating between the pork or mustard green version, and finally decided on the mustard green…cause I ate way too much meat (and food in general) yesterday, hehe. (Will soon post on yesterday’s adventures!) Did I mention what a good deal this sandwich is? Only $1!
I tucked the sandwich into my bag and didn’t eat it until I got home. Why? Cause I wanted to stick in the oven until the sesame spotted bun regained warm crispness. Oh man, it was pretty darn delicious, a hot crusty bun and soft innards hugging piles of crunchy mustard greens. This would be a very ideal breakfast! I poured on a bit of shoyu just to taste, but it’s perfectly fine left alone.
The walk back home from the subway stop was surely the most interesting walk I’ve taken in a long time. It was pretty late in the evening as far as Chinatown is concerned, and the streets felt so dark, damp and cold. The only restaurants that remained opened are the ones that you always hear about but never visit. You know, the ones where the menus are written all in Chinese and no one speaks a drop of English? Well these restaurants were packed to the brim with gaggles of families and group of friends enjoying bowls of noodles, and dipping their spoons in huge casserole pots with steam coming out the top. What was in the dish, I do not know, as I only got as far as peeking though the front door. It felt like a whole nother world. I spotted a Fu Zhow senior association meeting taking place. People snacking from the vendor selling fried fish balls and various meats on a stick. Shops closing up for the evening, dinner parties just getting started.
And then on a darker part of the street it grew very calm, so I kept on walking, quicker, because it was cold and I wanted to get home as soon as possible. And then I noticed a bright white lighting shining out of a door a few feet away on my right. So I slowed my steps and peeked into the door.
I saw this. And I stood there for a good ten minutes, completely mesmerized, watching a group of three men roll out soft white dough over and over again till it got very, very thin. I don’t think I blinked my eyes at all during those ten minutes, just watching the process being repeated over and over again near 10pm. It was strangely like a mirage, this huge brightly lit white room, while just a step away was the cold dark night. What street I was walking on, I don’t recall, but it was all an interesting experience nonetheless.
Soon I found myself on Grand Street and then everything started to look familiar, if disappointingly so. And this is why I love this city, because when I wake up every morning I never quite know how my night will end, who I will meet that day and what I’ll end up doing or eating. Life here is full of surprises, both good and bad (but thankfully, they’ve been mostly good!)
Hope you had an awesome weekend!
L’Arte Del Gelato
75 7th Ave
NY, NY 10014
Fuzhou Good Taste Grocery
75 East Broadway
NY, NY 10002